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EHC Plan - Personal budgets

What is a Personal Budget?

A personal budget is an amount of money identified by the Local Authority or Health providers to deliver parts of the support set out in an Education Health and Care Plan (EHC).

It is one of the ways of giving you more choice and control about the way your child is supported. It is bespoke depending on the child/ young person's needs.

Sometimes the money being spent on services can be freed up and used in different, more creative ways to meet the outcomes. It may mean that you can organise your own services and be given the money to do that.

Families can request a personal budget as part of the planning process for an EHC plan. This can be done when the Local Authority is drawing up an EHC plan or at an annual review of an EHC plan.

What can a personal budget be used for?

The way your personal budget is spent will be agreed with you and set out in the EHC plan.

Anything you use it for must meet the child or young person's health, education and social care needs.

Some people may use their personal budget to buy the same service; others may use it on different support or other services. If you have an EHC plan, your assessment coordinator will discuss this with you so that you can agree what is best.

A family can decide how they want to use the personal budget:

  • direct payment - a cash payment instead of services where individuals get the cash to contract, buy and manage services themselves as written in the EHC plan
  • an arrangement - where the local authority, school or college holds the funds for the family and commissions the support specified in the EHC plan for them (these are sometimes called notional budgets)
  • third party arrangements - where funds (direct payments) are paid to and managed by an individual or organisation on behalf of the child's parent or the young person
  • a combination of the above

What happens to any money that is not used?

If money hasn't been used, it may be used for other support if appropriate but sometimes it will have to be paid back.

Direct payment accounts are audited. Unused money might be identified taken back. This could be done from a due payment or you could be invoiced.

If this happens, the Self Directed Support Team and Income Section will help you to make repayment arrangements based on your circumstances.

How much money do you get?

This depends on your assessed needs and what support your EHC Plan says you need.

Personal budgets for children are not means tested. Getting a personal budget does not affect any other allowances and benefits.

Using a personal budget for education, health or social care

Education

A personal budget can be used for education when the education provider (including any special educational support as set out in the local offer) can't meet the child/ young person's support needs.

Funding for this will come from the Local Authority 'High Needs Block'.

A personal budget in education will vary depending on the parent/ young person's school preference - particularly when this is a special school or special unit attached to a mainstream school where the setting provides the specialist support needed.

The Local Authority must consider the impact on other service users and value for money if a direct payment is requested.

When the Local Authority commissions a place at a special school/ unit, the support from the school often comes as a package so scope for a personal budget might be limited.

A direct payment can't be used to fund a school place or a place in a post 16 institution.

A personal budget may be for:

  • specialised educational equipment
  • individual support subject to agreement by the child/ young person's education provider
  • transport to and from school/college (SEN personal travel budget)

Personal travel budgets

A Personal Travel Budget (PTB) is provided to parents or carers of children with Special Education Needs (SEN) who are eligible for travel assistance. It allows families to make flexible arrangements, monitor the quality of their child's transport directly or they could work with other families to achieve the best possible travel arrangements for their children.

Benefits of personal travel budgets:

  • can provide freedom and flexibility for your family to choose the most appropriate travel arrangements for your child that best fit with your personal circumstances
  • can provide choice and control over how funding is used to get your child to and from school on time in a way that suits you, your child and your family
  • ensures resources are distributed in a fair way according to need
  • allows you to explore opportunities to share with other parents and potentially increase your buying power
  • offers families an alternative to the traditional services that the council can provide

How much will my Personal Travel Budget be?

The PTB is calculated based on the distance between home and school for the days that your child attends school. This means each PTB will be tailored to the needs of each family.

Who can get a Personal Travel Budget?

You can get a PTB if your child is eligible for travel assistance from the council. Additionally, when deciding to offer a PTB, we would look at your child's attendance record at school. You may be refused a PTB if your child's attendance is currently below 80% (this means 64 half day sessions or 32 full days in a school year).

How do I get a Personal Travel Budget?

If children are eligible for travel assistance families will be eligible for a PTB so long as attendance is above 80%. If you are unsure about eligibility then please contact us. Based on the information that we know about children's current travel requirements, the SEN Team will calculate a PTB.

If you decide to take up a PTB we will ask you to sign an agreement letter. This sets out your role and the council's role in the PTB process to keep your child safe and ensure that their attendance and ability to learn are not negatively affected by their travel to and from school. The council would then make the arrangements to transfer the PTB to your bank account.

You will then be free to arrange and manage your child's travel arrangements in a way that best suits you, your child and your family. If your circumstances change, for example your family moves house, the PTB may need to be re-calculated.
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What can the Personal Travel Budget be spent on?

Parents can spend the PTB how they like, as long as children get to and from school on time and in a way that ensures their safety, encourages their attendance and does not negatively affect their ability to learn once they are at school.

Some ideas for spending the PTB include:

  • buying a travel pass for yourself or a trusted adult to accompany your child on public transport
  • paying for an escort for your child to walk to school or to travel by public transport, or arrange to do this yourself
  • covering the cost of driving or cycling with your child to school
  • arranging shared travel arrangements with other parents, e.g. shared driving responsibilities, walking buses or joint taxi bookings
  • overcoming barriers that may stop you accompanying your child to school, e.g. travel or childcare arrangements for siblings

How will the PTB get paid?

Payments would be made from the council into the parents' designated bank account on a monthly basis. The parent would need to provide us with the appropriate bank details when they sign the agreement.

Am I totally committed? Can I stop the Personal Travel Budget if it doesn't work out?

PTBs are voluntary. Parents can stop their PTB if your circumstances change substantially but we will need a week's notice to arrange alternative forms of travel assistance. We can also help with advice on how to use the PTB or the PTB can be adjusted if needs or circumstances change. We want to make PTBs work for families.

The school and council are committed to providing the best and most appropriate travel assistance for families. In the future, if the circumstances are right, other forms of Travel Assistance may be more appropriate for children such as Independent Travel. If children are assessed as being ready to learn to travel independently then our dedicated team would work with families to ensure a smooth transition takes place where appropriate.

Will it have an impact on other benefits?

No. Personal Travel Budgets have no impact on any other benefits.

Will the PTB continue in future years?

As children grow older, it's likely they will wish to become independent travellers. Independent travel is an important life skill and can help children to access the social and employment opportunities they wish to. You can start supporting or training your child to travel independently, or you can talk to your school about Independent Travel Training.

Will parents regularly need to show the council how the budget is being spent?

No. We want to keep the flexibility and control with parents and will keep monitoring to a minimum. We will pick up any potential issues through the school's recording of the child's attendance and fitness to learn once at school.

The personal budget and how this is managed will be identified in sections F and J in the individual's Education Health and Care Plan.

Health

Everyone receiving NHS Continuing Healthcare (including children's continuing care) has the right to ask for a Personal Health Budget, including a direct payment.

The personal budget and how this is managed will be identified in Sections G and J in the individual's Education Health and Care Plan.

Direct Payments for Health need a Care Plan which includes:

  • the health needs to be met and the outcomes to be achieved 
  • the resources that the direct payment will be used to buy, the size of the direct payment, and how often it will be paid
  • the name of the care co-ordinator responsible for managing the Care Plan
  • who will be responsible for monitoring the health condition of the person receiving care
  • the anticipated date of the first review, and how it will be carried out
  • the period of notice that will apply if the CCG decides to reduce the amount of the direct payment
  • where necessary, an agreed procedure for discussing and managing risk

Social care

For children and young people under 18, South Tyneside Council has a duty to offer direct payments for services which they may provide to children with disabilities or their families.

This might include:

  • support in your home (e.g. equipment or help with personal and domestic activities)
  • access to services in the community
  • short breaks

For people over 18 with eligible care and support needs (or where the Local Authority decides to meet needs) a personal budget is the overall financial commitment to meet the person's needs. They also form part of the care and support plan and the planning process.

The personal budget and how this is managed will be identified in Sections H1, H2, and J in the individual's Education Health and Care Plan.

How to apply for a personal budget

  • Your SEN Officer will ask you if you want the local authority/ health service to identify a personal budget for your child/young person.
  • Your SEN Officer will draw up a plan using information from the family and professionals which will identify the support needed. A estimate on how much funding will be given to the child/ young person (based on information from the assessments) will be made. This will be shared with you.
  • A meeting will be held with the parent/ child/ young person to agree the plan and talk about any changes or requests. When everyone agrees the parent/ young person will sign the plan and the agreement, if a personal budget has been taken. The agreement will set out how the personal budget will be managed.
  • The EHC plan and the funding must be able to meet the needs of the child/young person. If the parent/young person disagrees about the support and/or the amount in the budget then a complaint can be made to the Local authority or health provider, or help can be asked for from an advocacy service to try to speed up the process.

You will usually need a separate bank account for payments to be paid in to.

How the funding will be made available

When the EHC plan is being developed the SEN Officer working with the family will draw up an agreed plan of support. This will show the approximate level of funding likely to be needed to provide the support in the EHC plan.

In Adult Social Care the estimated budget is calculated through a Resource Allocation System (RAS) and in education by the Banded Funding System (BFS).

At this stage any figures discussed with the family are an indication only of the funding and not the final agreed figure. The final plan will identify specific funding and the support that it will pay for.

Details of the proposed personal budget and the outcome the funding supports will be identified in Section J of the EHC plan.

During the planning process, parents/young people will be asked if they want to take up any aspects of the personal budget via a managed budget and/ or a direct payment. The Local Authority will consider each request for a personal budget individually.

Once a personal budget has been agreed if it is to be taken as a direct payment then a member of the Self Directed Support Team will visit your home and explain how Direct Payments are administered and managed. They can provide:

  • detailed information
  • support with paperwork
  • leaflets and fact sheets
  • other support such as finding support resources

If the Local Authority can't provide a sum of money then the parents or young person will be told the reasons. Refusal of a direct payment for SEN support will be given in writing to the parent/ young person indicating the reasons and the right to request a formal review of the decision.

Where the disagreement relates to SEN support through the personal budget then the parent/ young person can appeal to the First-tier Tribunal as with any other disagreement about SEN support. For more information visit Appeals, mediation, and tribunals.

Conditions for receipt of a direct payment

To receive direct payments for a child/ young person you must:

  • have requested a personal budget and been given one
  • appear to the local authority to be capable of managing direct payments without help, or with help that's available to them
  • be a parent with a child who has an EHC plan
  • be a young person over compulsory school age who has a current EHC plan
  • agree in writing to the conditions set out and the outcomes that the funding will support
  • use the money to pay for the support stated in the child/young person's EHC plan
  • get written agreement from your child/young person's education provider if it involves the support being delivered on the education providers premises (if the education provider does not agree then the direct payment can't go ahead and alternative arrangements might be considered)
  • agree to repay any money that has not been spent on the identified support back to the Local Authority
  • not be subject to drug rehabilitation
  • not need alcohol treatment 
  • not be on released from gaol on licence
  • not be subject to youth rehabilitation
  • not be excluded under the Direct Payments regulations

Direct Payments can't be used:

  • for buying services from the Council, health authority or Housing
  • to employ a member of the household who lives with the child
  • to buy long term residential care

How the direct payments will be monitored

  • the Local Authority will monitor the use of direct payments as part of the review of a child/ young person's support
  • monitoring will take place once within the first three months, at the end of one year and at least annually whilst the direct payment is in place or more often if needed
  • monitoring is subject to the Direct Payments monitoring policy

What is the difference between direct payments and personal budget?

A personal budget is the amount of money calculated to meet your child/ young person's needs. You could ask the Local Authority to manage this budget for you, or you could ask to take responsibility for some of it as a direct payment so that you can manage the support yourself.

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